The latest British horror movie, Homebound, treads some familiar ground with its premise. From first-time director Sebastian Godwin, this thriller mixes bits of ‘creepy kids‘ horror with a remote, seemingly idyllic country manor. In spite of its mixing of well-worn tropes, critics have been generally impressed with Godwin’s effort. And Homebound wouldn’t be the first horror movie to resurrect new scares from old ideas.
To celebrate his youngest daughter’s birthday, Richard arrives at his ex-wife’s countryside home, along with his new wife, Holly. Immediately upon their arrival, Holly senses something is wrong. The children’s mother -Nina – is nowhere to be seen. And Richard’s three children – hiding something about their mother – treat Holly coldly. As the children become confrontational and Richard’s behaviour grows increasingly strange, Holly fears that something horrible has happened to Nina – and that it may happen to her next.
Homebound Filled With Atmosphere, But Missing a Finished Story
In his feature length debut, writer and director Sebastian Godwin shows off a knack for the genre. Homebound is a stripped down horror movie that’s not reliant on effects, graphic violence, or a twisty premise. Instead, Godwin invests in crafting a foreboding atmosphere that carries throughout the movie. In part, Godwin accomplishes this mood by effectively using the isolated environment and keeping things moving at a bris pace. This is a relatively short affair, clocking in at just over 70 minutes. But Homebound also relies on familiar ‘creepy kid’ tropes. As the story unfolds, Godwin quickly escalates from an initially quiet and ambivalent response to Holly by the children to more openly hostile acts. And Nina’s continued absence alongside Richard’s odd behavior fuels some tension.
Arguably, Homebound’s worst offence is its abrupt and empty conclusion.
But Homebound ultimately feels like an effectively chilling thriller that’s one act short of a complete movie. Things quickly unravel into predictability in the final 10 minutes. Arguably, Homebound’s worst offence is its abrupt and empty conclusion. Much of Godwin’s suspense hinges on the mystery of Nina’s absence and Richard’s intentions. Is he a good father and husband? Or does he have more nefarious intentions? Unfortunately, Homebound ends before addressing these plot threats. It’s not an ambiguous ending that will spark discussion or ruminations beyond the credits. Rather Homebound feels like it lacks an ending. Godwin gives us some blood spatter, buzzing flies, and Holly’s terrified expression. And then it ends. The finale feels so abrupt that one would be forgiven for wondering if something was accidentally cut from the final reel.
Homebound’s Cast and Their Performances Often Outreach The Story
While its narrative is unsatisfying, Aisling Loftus’ performance as ‘Holly’ is noteworthy. Even as Homebound leaves plot threads and themes undeveloped, Loftus perfectly captures that initial feeling of being an ‘outside-on-the-inside’. As Richard and the children’s behaviour becomes increasingly strange, it’s Loftus’ reactions that sell the tension in the absence of more story. In particular, the contrast between what Homebound’s finale offers and what Loftus delivers is remarkable. The conclusion would feel morel like a rip-off if not for Loftus’ horrified expression that at least leaves you chilled.
Even as Homebound leaves plot threads and themes undeveloped, Loftus perfectly captures that initial feeling of being an ‘outside-on-the-inside’.
None of the other performances from the small cast are bad. In fact, all three child actors acquit themselves quite well. As the youngest, ‘Anna’, Raffiella Chapman (His Dark Materials) stands out giving exactly the kind of discomforting vibes you expect from ‘evil kids’ in a horror movie. Both Hattie Gotobed (Game of Thrones) and Lukas Rolfe are mostly regulated to silent glares. This once again speaks to problems with Godwin’s screenplay. Though Loftus’ performance is excellent her character is undeniably underwritten, lacking an sort of arc. Similarly, Richard’s children have nothing to do but play ‘creepy’. And Tom Goodman-Hill (Rebecca) has even less with which to work, often just appearing illogical.
Homebound Squanders Atmosphere With a Disappointing Narrative
There’s lots to appreciate in Homebound – Godwin’s debut feature shows off a natural grasp of horror aesthetics. But the storytelling ultimately falls short. There’s a fine line between an ambiguous narrative that chills as compared to dangling plot threads. Unfortunately, Homebound sort of introduces ideas and then ends abruptly. This is the rare case of a movie probably needing a bit more time. What’s present is all style with little story and not enough of a surrealist approach to justify it. However, while it’s not completely satisfying, the performances, short runtime, and atmosphere make it worth watching.